Director: Na Hong-jin
Starring: Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Jun Kunimura, Kim Hwan-hee
Running Time: 156mins
When a Japanese traveller arrives in a small village strange things start to occur. There are horrendous multiple murders and a strange rash/infection that appears to be spreading through the village. One of the local policemen, Jong-goo, is drawn ever deeper into the investigation, piece by piece, until it encompasses everything in his world.
Sergeant Jong-goo is portrayed as a bit of a bumbling policeman, not quite firing on all cylinders, and this is played up to throughout the film but is tempered by his protectiveness of his daughter Hyo-jin, who he would do anything for.
As the sickness spreads and there are more deaths the attention on this case intensifies and Jong-goo fixates on the Japanese stranger as his main culprit.
The bumbling policeman slowly transforms throughout the film as the focus changes from others to his own, he becomes less light-hearted, less bumbling and more driven and decisive, however these decisions are not always for the best….. A Shaman is brought in to try to save Hyo-jin, and there are some really wonderful scenes involving the exorcism, and is reflected in the effects that this is having on the demon, expertly cutting between the two rituals and the efforts that they are going through to force and counter each other. As the tension heightens towards the end, we are left with a real knife-edge decision as to who is telling the truth and who is the evil spirit, switching back and forth, and it is a decision that Jong-goo must make.
The cinematography by Kyung-pyo Hong is fantastic throughout; the choices of locations, including the small village setting surrounded by jungle, really allows some amazing scenery to be shown but again, I am totally besotted by the imagery and colours that this displays, in much the same way that Train to Busan jumped off the screen and filled my eyeballs with sumptuous visuals.
This is a long film at over 150mins and I felt that it lost its way momentarily but it does well to carry the story through all the way to the end, maintaining the tension and building to a finish. Placing almost all of the onus of solving these crimes onto Jong-goo is a risky scenario given his starting position, but to then add a personal element ramps it up and he becomes less of a policeman and more a concerned, desperate father, highlighting the emotional toll, increasing the tension and drawing the viewer further into the events.
The director has also made The Chaser and The Yellow Sea, both films are already on my watch list, unbeknownst to me that it is the same director and this bodes well for my future viewing. With seamlessly integrating horror, violence, humour and the mundane together in such an entertaining way it shows that this is a director of ability. I can’t wait to watch his other films